Chanson d'automne

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Recording in French by Nadine Eckert-Boulet for LibriVox.
Sung in French by Ezwa for LibriVox.

"Chanson d'automne" ("Autumn Song") is a poem by Paul Verlaine (1844–1896), one of the best known in the French language. It is included in Verlaine's first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866 (see 1866 in poetry). The poem forms part of the "Paysages tristes" ("Sad landscapes") section of the collection.[1]

In World War II lines from the poem were used to send messages from Special Operations Executive (SOE) to the French Resistance about the timing of the forthcoming Invasion of Normandy.


Chanson d'automne
French English translation
Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon cœur
D'une langueur
Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure;
Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.
The long sobs
Of violins
Of autumn
Wound my heart
With a monotonous
All breathless
And pale, when
The hour sounds,
I remember
The old days
And I cry;
And I go
In the ill wind
That carries me
Here, there,
Like the
Dead leaf.

Critical analysis[edit]

The poem uses several stylistic devices and is in many ways typical of Verlaine, in that it employs sound techniques such as consonance (the repetition of "n" and "r" sounds) that also creates an onomatopoeic effect, sounding both monotonous and like a violin.[2] In the second verse, the stop consonant and pause after the word suffocant reflect the meaning of the word. At the age of 22, Verlaine uses the symbolism of autumn in the poem to describe a sad view of growing old.

Use in World War II[edit]

In preparation for Operation Overlord, the BBC's Radio Londres had signaled to the French Resistance with the opening lines of the 1866 Verlaine poem "Chanson d'Automne" were to indicate the start of D-Day operations under the command of the Special Operations Executive. The first three lines of the poem, "Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l'automne" ("Long sobs of autumn violins"), would mean that Operation Overlord was to start within two weeks. These lines were broadcast on 1 June 1944. The next set of lines, "Blessent mon coeur / d'une langueur / monotone" ("wound my heart with a monotonous languor"), meant that it would start within 48 hours and that the resistance should begin sabotage operations, especially on the French railroad system; these lines were broadcast on 5 June at 23:15.[3][4][5][6]

Adaptation in songs[edit]

In 1940 Charles Trenet made changes to the words of the poem in order to change it into a song. There has been speculation that it was the popularity of his version that led to the use of the poem by SOE.[7]

A later French singer, Serge Gainsbourg, uses parts of the poem in the lyrics of his song "Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais" ("I've come here to tell you that I am leaving").

The poem was also set to music by French-American artist Laurent de Kiev on his "De Musset à Sardou" album in 2021.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Séries littéraires: Commentaire de Chanson d'Automne (French)". Archived from the original on 2018-06-24. Retrieved 2011-02-20.
  2. ^ Lloyd Bishop, "Phonological Correlates of Euphony", The French Review, vol XLIX, no 1, Oct 1975
  3. ^ Bowden, Mark; Ambrose, Stephen E. (2002). Our finest day: D-Day: June 6, 1944. Chronicle. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-8118-3050-8.
  4. ^ Hall, Anthony (2004). D-Day: Operation Overlord Day by Day. Zenith. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7603-1607-8.
  5. ^ Roberts, Andrew (2011). The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. HarperCollins. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-06-122859-9.
  6. ^ Palacci, Eddy (2013). Des étoiles par cœur. Paris: Elzevir. Archived from the original on 2017-05-10. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  7. ^ Stuart Tappin (6 October 2017). "Trenet turned Verlaine's poem into chanson". Financial Times. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  8. ^ Laurent de Kiev (6 January 2022). "CHANSON D'AUTOMNE (PAUL VERLAINE) – EN CHANSON". Retrieved 6 January 2022.

External links[edit]